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Tic Toc Tech: A crucial conversation on COVID-19 with Dr. Kristina Box

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Women & Hi Tech’s Executive Women’s Forum (EWF) of 2021, featuring Indiana Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box, was very informative and educational. This EWF event was hosted by Women & Hi Tech’s past president and EWF director, Angela B. Freeman and Linda Calvin, respectively, on Feb. 11 during Black History Month, and on the International Day of Women & Girls in Science as declared by the United Nations General Assembly.

Before becoming Indiana’s health commissioner, Dr. Box worked as a gynecologist and obstetrician for 30 years in Indianapolis. She was responsible for building the first multidisciplinary Women’s Center at Community Health and spent her early career focused on reducing infant mortality in minority populations. She also led efforts to ensure all women could access preventive health screenings.

Facts about Indiana’s COVID-19 numbers, response and vaccines

Dr. Box started her summary about Indiana’s COVID-19 response on a high note — the continuing decline in Indiana’s positivity rate.

Dr. Box then dove into Indiana’s COVID-19 numbers. She shared that while only 23% of cases have been in individuals age 60-plus, 93% of statewide deaths have been in that population. One-third of cases have been in those under age 30 while 45% of cases have been in those age 30 to 60. Dr. Box said some of these cases have been because of ignoring mandates for self-isolation and masking, but many more have been because following those mandates wasn’t always possible.

Dr. Box shared insights about the process and reasoning behind Indiana’s strategy to distribute COVID-19 vaccines. “We engaged a statewide external advisory with clergy, community leaders, diverse minority leaders, health care professionals and more to judge ‘is the vaccine appropriate?’ and ‘is our strategy to distribute it ethical?’”

Dr. Box and her colleagues are extremely focused on vaccine awareness in rural, minority and diverse communities. “There is a very real and justified fear in minority communities resulting from past injustices like the Tuskegee Experiments. We seek to address this by sharing information with community leaders who can spread the message. We are so appreciative of these partnerships and are continuing to identify such leaders in every single county. We want to educate anyone who wants to learn about the specific efficacy of the vaccine in their population.”

Dr. Box explained that Indiana is leading the nation in vaccine strategy and distribution, though faulty national data is causing us to not get the credit. “We have 92 health departments across the state, as well as our nationally-ranked hospitals and private pharmacies, all helping with the distribution effort—simply because we asked,” she said. “When I get on the national status calls, other states…don’t understand this is just another example of how Hoosiers have stepped up to the plate, as usual.”

Dr. Box shared that Indiana is receiving 100,000 vaccine doses a week. Over 250,000 people have been fully vaccinated and over 900,000 have had a first dose or have scheduled an appointment. “As we prioritize individuals whose age and pre-existing conditions make them a high-risk group, as well as those in frontline industries like healthcare, emergency response, and retail, I absolutely expect any Hoosier who wants a vaccine will be able to get one well before the end of 2021.”

Visit coronvirus.in.gov to learn more about COVID-19, register for vaccination, schedule a COVID-19 test and get critical information about the virus.

Rupal Thanawala is managing director at Trident Systems leading business and technology consulting practice, and tech editor for Indianapolis Recorder. Contact her at rupalt@indyrecorder.com.

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